From an early age I’ve always had an interest in Science and Food. I was a bit of a TV addict as a boy but rather than watch normal TV for someone my age, I preferred to watch Sci-fi programmes like Star Trek, Sapphire & Steel, UFO, Flash Gordon and the Japanese Monster movies. I also would ask Santa for Chemistry and Biology sets for Christmas and I was able to dissect an onion and look at it under a microscope before I could tie my shoe laces.
My love of food also started early. I would love trying to help my mother bake apple tarts and scones, while licking the whisk after she beat up the sugar and egg whites for Pavlova or lemon meringue – this was my favourite part of the cooking experience!
This love of science and food carried through and after our first few career classes at school, by the age of 11, I only had one career in mind and that was to be a ‘Food Scientist’. Through school I also had a part-time job packing Chickens at Moy Park and a placement at Uni Pork Cookstown (now Karro) and this continued my desire to get into the food industry and get cracking.
I studied Food Science in Queens University Belfast and has the opportunity of a placement year at Marks & Spencer in their London Head Office in Baker Street. This was a mind blowing experience from leaving the home comforts of Northern Ireland and immersing myself in a company whose desire for the best quality product on the market place was all encompassing. I got to travel all over the UK working in party food and delicatessen and on new science based projects was then offered a place on the M&S Graduate Program on finishing University.
I spent over 10 years’ in London working for Marks & Spencer as a Technologist. It was a wonderful role managing lots of different product categories including Confectionary, Bakery & Cakes, Biscuits, Prepared Fruit, Dried Fruit & Nuts, Red Meat & Poultry. During my time at M&S there was always the drive to launch innovative and first to market quality products which sits perfectly with the Finnebrogue Artisan value.
In 2010 I took up a new challenge to Lead the Technical and Development teams in Tesco Ireland & Northern Ireland. There was a real drive to change the customers perception of the brand and we worked tirelessly on NPD and store execution to deliver quality products made by local producers and introduce a benchmark and quality program to ensure that the products delivered all year round against the market. We worked on PR and marketing campaigns to strengthen the Tesco sourcing and quality credential messages and promoting Tesco ‘Homegrown’ in ROI and Tesco Taste Northern Ireland.
In 2012 I moved to Genesis Crafty in Magherafelt, a company steeped in family heritage and with a desire to keep their handcrafted credentials to deliver great product quality and a real point of difference to the market place. Genesis Crafty have grown rapidly focusing on new products, such as their handcrafted mince pies, handcrafted scones and light and fluffy pancakes. They have focused on delivering points of difference and worked with their retail partners to deliver these messages encompassing a brand refresh and utilising new packaging formats and quality messages on pack for Own Branded products.
I’ve known Denis for more than 10 years’ from my time in M&S and Tesco and it was an exciting proposition to come and work with him at Finnebrogue Artisan when I joined in December 2014. At Finnebrogue Artisan there is a consistent drive to ensure we have the best products in the market place, to guarantee we are leading from the front on product innovation and first to market ranges while continually improving on our systems and operational performance. There is also a strong determination to use the latest science and technology to ensure we are at the forefront of the market and we won’t be resting on our laurels!